Review: Death or Treat [PC Full Release]
Step into the haunting world of Death or Treat, an intriguing game brought to you by the creative minds at Saona Studios. Prepare to immerse yourself in a devilishly delightful experience as you navigate ghoulish garrisons of the dead and battle against a maniacal corporate mind. With a unique blend of inspiration from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Hollow Knight, Death or Treat aims to be a real frightening frolic through devilish dangers. Let us launch into a cornucopia of corporate shenanigans.
What a horrible night for a Corporate Takeover
In Death or Treat, the once-thriving Halloween hovel of HallowTown is facing a grave crisis. The inhabitants have abandoned their usual indulgence in candies and have become consumed by a new substance called Storyum. As a player, you assume the role of Scary, a sheet ghost responsible for running the traveling shop of GhostMart. Driven by a fierce determination to dismantle the evil factory behind Storyum’s creation, you embark on a perilous journey armed with your trusty broomstick, ready to delve into the depths of the corporate casket.
The adventure of Death or Treat has you traversing various levels on your journey. In Darkchat, the depths beckon you, where you’ll encounter the deranged scientist Stephen Pumpkin. With stealth and cunning, you’ll venture into RipTok, a twisted domain governed by the malevolent witch Clintok. The fiery depths of DevilTube await, a realm ablaze with maleficent energy, where the corporate demon Jeff Beelzeboss lurks. Finally, your trepidation reaches its peak in FaceBoo!, a nightmarish realm ruled by a maniacal CEO whose insidious machinations threaten to consume HallowTown.
Death or Treat, visual magnificence
One of the standout features of Death or Treat is its captivating art style. The meticulously hand-painted backgrounds create an immersive and visually stunning atmosphere. Each area is thoughtfully designed, capturing the essence of the game’s haunting and quirky theme. Every NPC is uniquely crafted and brought to life through meticulous animation. Both friendly and hostile, the art in Death or Treat is brilliantly done. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the soundtrack. Everything has the same “spooky” atmospheric tones that after a while, just start to blend together. This is a real shame, as the boss battles have no real feeling to them. Beating a boss and moving to the next area feels almost hollow, like you’re watching a book’s pages being turned before you can really appreciate what just happened.
Death or Treat has a somewhat simple gameplay loop. Attempt to overthrow the various divisions as you fight your way to FaceBoo! and attempt to bring candies back to HallowTown. While you start out with a simple broomstick and a couple skills, the more you play the more you’ll be able to unlock the shops in HallowTown to aid you in your adventure. Joe Bite Them is a vampire that will help you keep your loot in between games. Frank’s Forge hosts a monster that will build new weapons for you. DetoxBucks is a nice cafe that will help you improve your health and regeneration. And Necrosoft: a library that will help you enhance your abilities.
Brick by spooky brick
All of these buildings, as well as their contents, requires materials to unlock. These can range from Wings of Bats and Brain Fluid to Cursed Clothing and Pumpkin Seeds. Also lots and lots of candy. These places serve as various static upgrade that you will need to better insure your survival in future plays. These upgrades will be very needed because Death or Treat doesn’t have ways to get stronger during gameplay. Outside of rare health drops, the only way you can change anything in your current loadout is in a room before the boss room. There is typically a mysterious merchant that will sell you a potion that may or may not help or hinder you. Beyond that, sometimes there is a podium that has a couple items to choose from that will grant a passive buff.
While Death or Treat excels in many aspects, it does face a few challenges that can hinder the overall experience. One prominent issue lies in the enemy AI. In certain instances, even when an enemy remains unseen, it possesses an uncanny awareness of your presence and bombards you with highly accurate and dangerous attacks from off-screen. Such encounters have led to the demise of many runs, leaving me frustrated by the seemingly unfair advantage of the AI.
Combat is hectic, fast, and brutal, with the odds firmly against you in ways that are downright frustrating. It’s so incredibly easy to get knocked out of an attack by a stray pixel or get blindsided and fall to your death because something you can’t react to decides to shoot you from across the map. Also, dashing gives you absolutely zero invincibility frames. Which is weird because in most other games, this is a very standard feature.
Candy that’s lost its flavor
Ultimately, Death or Treat is an okay game. It’s got charm, sure. But it lacks, and I’m not trying to make a joke here, it lacks soul. It’s a platformer souls-like with roguelite tendencies, that has you dying to random enemy attack patterns that you can’t read because they are off screen. The levels are randomized so it’s not like you can master a level by playing it a lot. It gives the illusion of choice without actually giving any clues as to where the player is going.
Should you play Death or Treat? Sure, its does what it does well enough, and the game isn’t broken. But unlike Hollow Knight or Ori, you probably won’t be back for seconds once you finish it. There are a few nice visual changes that’s happened since the beta playthrough of this game. But it’s not enough to carry it. There is literally no reason to unlock everything because there is no change in the overall gameplay if you do. And the grind required to do so is staggering. Maybe if there is DLC in the future, I’ll take another look. But for now, I’ll leave this little indie adventure in the freezer for when I need to sate my sweet tooth on something punny.
Death or Treat is available on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Mac.
Ultimately, Death or Treat is an okay game. It’s got charm, sure. But it lacks it lacks soul. It’s a platformer souls-like with roguelite tendencies. Its not broken, but its flaws keep it from being great.